Are there any differences in the meaning of or when we use the idioms 'spend a small fortune' and 'pay through the nose'? The definitions in the Cambridge Dictionary are:

  • a small fortune: a large amount of money
  • pay through the nose: to pay too much money for something

1 Answer 1


You can pay a small fortune (a large amount of money) for something, and that might (or might not) be the right or fair price for that thing:

I pay a small fortune each month to live in Manhattan, but it's worth it for the view from my apartment.

I paid a small fortune to put my son through college, and now he's a drug addict.

Paying through the nose means something different - paying too much for something:

I paid through the nose to get my car repaired overnight. $2000 just to fix a broken window – can you believe it? (I could have got it done for $150 if I had waited until Monday).

The amount of money does not have to be large, just more than a normal sum - you might pay $20 for a hot dog at a baseball game that would cost much less somewhere else.

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